The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill is wasteful and unnecessary

Earlier today, the Senate passed a $1.2 trillion spending bill that is intended to fund infrastructure for the next five years. Of the $1.2 trillion, just $550 billion is above the projected federal government spending on infrastructure over the next 5 years. The bill is largely a result of a bipartisan agreement that scaled-down Biden’s initial $2.3 trillion proposal.

Wasteful and unnecessary

Despite scaling down, there is still a lot about the bill that is undesirable. For one, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the bill will add $256 billion to the deficit.

Worse yet, most of the new spending is unnecessary. As illustrated by Cato,

Nearly all of the $550 billion in new funds, all of which will come from deficit spending, is for things we don’t really need. In response to a phony infrastructure crisis, $110 billion is dedicated to roads and bridges, but our highways and bridges are actually in good shape and getting better every year without emergency deficit spending.

Another $39 billion will go for mass transit and $66 billion for Amtrak, but both transit and Amtrak have lost close to 60 percent of their riders since the pandemic and are unlikely to ever recover to pre‐​pandemic levels. A huge influx of money into these money‐​pits is totally unnecessary.

And even outside of transportation itself, some of the other provisions of the bill are unlikely to prove beneficial. Let us take, for example, the $65 billion for expanding broadband in order to help low-income residents in rural areas access internet services. Evidence suggests that “most of the beneficiaries from this spending are likely to be high-income people who don’t need subsidies.” Low-income residents, contrary to popular opinion, do not comprise the majority of rural areas.

Will worsen congestion

Not to mention that the bill contains provisions that would increase congestion and decrease mobility. For example, it “provides billions of dollars in funding for projects aimed at slowing traffic and increasing congestion” through the highway safety improvement program, which calls for things like protected bike crossing lanes, pedestrian crossing islands, and other features to reduce vehicle speeds.

Congestion is, however, detrimental to growth, and in the Twin Cities, congestion has already been getting worse.

Studies have shown a strong correlation between the average speed of travel in cities and worker productivity: faster speeds give employers a greater pool of workers to choose from and help people find the best jobs for their skills. Slowing speeds will reduce the nation’s economic productivity, which we will need to pay back the money borrowed to pay for these programs.

The bill is, in short, unnecessary

Investing in our infrastructure is indeed desirable. Spending on federal government transportation programs, however, rarely works out as planned. Federal transportation projects usually run over budget but provide fewer than estimated benefits.

Considering that most states, including Minnesota, have experienced revenue surpluses, federal spending is highly unnecessary and will merely increase red tape and reduce the autonomy of the states in figuring out their own infrastructure needs.